Leagues: AFL U18 Championships, Coates Talent League Boys
SNAPSHOT: “A speedy and competitive forward, Clarke’s energy and athleticism on-field provide him with a real sense of X-factor.”
One of the few prospects with prior NAB League experience coming into the season, Charlie Clarke has been somewhat of a surprise packet across the 2022 campaign in a star studded Sandringham Dragons side. Equally lively through the midfield or up forward, Clarke’s ability to impact in multiple roles was a valuable asset in the Dragons’ journey to the premiership, being held goalless in just two of his 15 appearances.
Clarke’s feats, including a remarkable seven-goal haul against Tasmania in Round 4, garnered representative honours with Vic Metro where he played all four games throughout the Under 18 National Championships. Above all, he is a talent who loves the big stage and rises to grand occasions with his guts to take the game on and instinctual play inside attacking 50.
+ Contested game
+ Goal sense
Splitting his time between the forward 50 and the centre bounce rotations this season, Clarke was one who consistently showed up for Sandringham with his impact in either role truly felt. Being one of the rare Dragons prospects without school football commitments, Clarke got to strut his stuff across 15 appearances in the NAB League, showing some incredible consistency across the season with only two goalless games and two games below double digit disposals. Playing so often in the NAB League gave Clarke the opportunity to put up some starring games, With his seven-goal haul in Round 4, and four-goal haul in the Wildcard Round two highlights from his games as a forward. Meanwhile, a 33-disposal, two-goal return in Round 10 was arguably his best game as a midfielder.
What really separates Clarke from the other forward options within the draft crop is his strength in contested situations, showing he’s up for the challenge of winning a hard ball and even thriving off of the contact that comes with it. His ability to reliably win the ball one-on-one both through the midfield and forward line is something he has become renowned for. This has been best highlighted through his stints in the midfield though, with Clarke often a first possession getter from stoppages who throws himself into packs to win the footy. Clarke was consistent in his application and production throughout the season, becoming somewhat of a barometer for his side, with Sandringham playing its best when he was playing his best.
A key aspect of Clarke’s game is his athleticism, namely his speed, looking dangerous when at full flight with very few opponents able to catch him. His speed allows him to get easy separation on leads around the ground, but also lets him hold off on making his run until the last moment to burn opponents with his first two or three steps. He best utilised this speed in transition, able to be released into space and carry the ball 40-50 meters with one run before sending his side inside 50, taking advantage when teammates were nearby to get one-twos to relieve himself of some pressure.
With a plethora of exciting traits to get excited about, there are still some areas of improvement for Clarke heading into the next level to round out his game. Whilst his field kicking improved throughout the season, it does still stand out as an area for him to work on in the future, with his short kicking in particular something he’ll benefit from improving. Despite consistently hitting the scoreboard and showing great instincts in front of goal, Clarke could do with some sharper conversion in front of the sticks, having missed some gettable shots through the year.
DRAFT RANGE: 25-40
Though there remains an element of rawness to Clarke’s game, his ability to impact in key moments as a dual-position threat with dangerous athletic traits will please recruiters. He seems a popular teammate and is one capable of providing a spark with his intensity on-field, let alone scoreboard impact. He may well have risen into top 30 contention with a strong back-end of the season, and will likely start his career as a forward before spending spurts in midfield.
AFL U18 Championships